New Photographer

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    Early this year I picked up a camera again after an over 15 year hiatus (I used to shoot on film…). This weekend I got my first ever chance to shoot in a fully equipped studio with professional models; no fetish, no nudity, just a group of 4 photographers, two models, and a couple of concepts around Valentines Day and American football. I learned two things from the experience:

    (1) It was really fun! I have already booked a couple more shoots. In a weird way I had an advantage over other new photographers in the group – I have always shot on full manual settings in the past, so that was not an issue for me.

    (2) I have even more respect for what Hywel and Ariel do. I was physically and emotionally exhausted after a 5 hour shoot (and that was taking turns with other photographers). I don’t know how Ariel does this daily, and I have no idea how Hywel produces enough material to give us daily updates on RE (including coming up with the ideas). But thank you to both of you for what you do!

    By the way, an additional thank you to Ariel. A few weeks ago she produced a custom video for me, which turned out really well. That process gave me a measure of confidence that I can actually convey a concept to a model – thanks again! That said, this is an area I really need to work on a lot.




    Very glad you’ve picked up a camera again and are having fun with photography!

    Also very glad you like our work, and that you enjoyed the video Ariel made for you 🙂

    We do find photoshoot days very tiring.

    Ariel says that modelling days aren’t so bad- I think mostly because she plain loves modelling, but also because it is less demanding in terms of coming up with ideas and making decisions. The model makes lots of decisions for sure- constantly, in terms of finding poses and expressions and lots of other things. But it is generally under the direction of the photographer, rather than vice versa. I’ve definitely noticed that being on the crew takes more out of her- there’s the responsibility for rigging, for the model’s safety but most of all you just have to do a lot more thinking, and that takes mental energy.

    At the end of several days of shooting we are good for nothing more than collapsing under a duvet and eating cake.

    The inspiration issue can be a serious one when you’re making your living this way. Over the years I’ve evolved a few tricks which help with that- here are a few in case you are interested.

    1) A new shooting space provides instant inspiration. It’s easy for me to come up with the first one or two “low hanging fruits”, storylines which immediately suggest themselves when we go to shoot at a new place. Finding the hundredth story in a space is much harder.

    2) New people provide inspiration. It’s noticeable how much everyone perks up if we’re on a week-long location shoot and we have a changeover in model or crew part way through. The new person really helps lift everyone’s energy levels.

    3) For me, it is absolutely crucial to be able to schedule in breaks from shooting in my calendar. Like at the moment- we did a ton of shoots in the run up to December, specifically so that I could have a couple of months at the start of this year to catch up on admin and other necessary stuff… but also so that my subconscious gets to work away at ideas while I am off climbing mountains or ordering new business cards.

    4) I find looking at other people’s still photos can often spark inspiration. It’s occasionally of the “we must try that star chest harness it’s awesome” type, but more commonly it suggest a character or a storyline which may well be nothing to do with anything overt in the image- just something that catches my eye. I keep a notebook with me to jot these down. Interestingly, watching videos or films rarely does the same for me. I find stills more evocative.

    5) The power of the Rodriguez list. Coined by Stu Maschwitz but inspired by Robert Rodriguez- if you hve a guitar case (no guitar), a car and a girl, write a story about a girl who drives around carrying an empty guitar case. Who is she? Why does she have an empty guitar case? Soon, the story has written itself. It’s MUCH easier to start from the Rodriguez list than to stare at a blank sheet of paper and wait for inpspiration.

    6) Be prepared. I always try to note down at least a list of vague ideas so I have somewhere to start.

    7) When all else fails, fake it and just shoot something, even if you’re sure it is the most derivative, nonsensical idea. A few years later you won’t remember which sets felt like you were churning them out. (Although the ones you were really inspired for do still sparkle pretty brightly).

    8) Last, but by no means least, I can thoroughly recommend marrying your in-house superstar. Without Ariel I doubt I’d be able to maintain five updates a week of ideas. A lot of the ideas we shoot are Ariel’s in the first place, but having both of us there on shoot days means we can “pass the creative buck” back and forth between us through the day. So I can get inspired to light the set by how Ariel’s rigging it if I’m feeling out of ideas, or I can suggest the starting point for a rig if Ariel is out of ideas, and so on.

    As it happens, I am feeling pretty stale right now. After finding 4500-ish ideas to shoot, finding number 4501 can be tricky. But I’m not worried, because I’ve got a couple of months before we start the regular RE shoots again, I’ve ordered some new bondage gear, we’ve got a couple of location trips in the works, I’ve got some new models lined up to work with, we’ve just booked a shoot with Kate which is always super, we’ve got customs to shoot which often lead our brains to squirt out tangentially related ideas, and we’ve got more than a year of content on disk anyway so I don’t have to panic. The inspiration will be back and in the meantime I can do the more routine (but every bit as necessary) behind the scenes work on the site 🙂

    Cheers, Hywel



    One idea I’d like to put forth is reviewing the old posts on this forum (and on the old forum archive) for suggestions and inspiration. Also (if you don’t already do so) review your old sets with an eye to finding things you’d like to revisit, or do a little differently, or do a lot differently.



    Sablesword, good point – I’ll make a point of scanning back through the forum! Alas, so far I have no old sets to review, so I have been reading a lot and looking at other photographer’s work.



    Hywel, wow – thank you for that long reply. You have given me a lot of ideas on how to approach creating shoots. For the next few months I am working with groups and a lead photographer, so there is a starting concept. Still, I realized after the first outing that I need to develop me own ideas to go with that concept.

    I hope you get to enjoy your break and look forward to seeing the new sets you come up with. If things progress well I hope to make it to the UK for a summer photo vacation next year; I’d love to set up a tutorial day with you and Ariel!

    Thanks again!

    PS. I’ll pass on the “marry your favorite model” I think – bad experiences in the past… 🙂

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